LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS: Embedding education into the fabric of the Drug Court

Ms Elisa Buggy1

1 Judicial College of Victoria

Although ongoing multi-disciplinary education is considered an essential component of successful drug courts (being #9 of the Internationally-accepted Ten Key Components of Drug Courts), it is often implemented on an as-needed, topic-driven basis rather than through the establishment of a systemically-developed curriculum.  All too often, educational programs within Drug Courts and other solutions-focused courts are seen as optional, particularly for key members of the team, i.e. judicial officers, legal representatives, and prosecutorial services.  The expansion of the Drug Court in Victoria from one site, 18 staff, and 60 participants, to three sites, 60 staff, and 170 participants has provided the perfect opportunity to re-right the theory-to-practice balance by incorporating the design and implementation of a robust education program from commencement.

This paper will describe the development of the Drug Court Education Program, including an exploration of the elements of the curriculum, both in the initial implementation phase of the expansion, and as an embedded component of the expanded program ongoing.  It will highlight the importance of co-design to ensure a thorough needs and gap analysis are conducted, before exploring some of the less conventional features of the program, for example, reflective practice as a team, and the importance of team-based authentic leadership in successful solutions-focused courts.

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